Pac-12 notes: Conference moving future football title games to Las Vegas

New LA Bowl added to lineup; other topics addressed by commissioner Larry Scott at Pac-12 media day

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Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott
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The Pac-12 Conference will move its football championship game to Las Vegas in 2020.

During Pac-12 media day in Hollywood, Calif., on Wednesday, commissioner Larry Scott announced the change of venue for the title game, which has been played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., since 2014.

This season will be the sixth in a row that the title game will be held at the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. From 2011-13, the game was held in campus stadiums.

The Pac-12 has entered an agreement to play the 2020 and 2021 championship games at Las Vegas Stadium, the new venue being built for NFL’s Raiders, who are expected to move from Oakland next year.

“We’ve enjoyed a great partnership with the San Francisco 49ers,” Scott said during his address to the media. “At the same time, we’ve always envisioned taking this crown jewel event to other major markets around our footprint. We’re looking forward to the next two years, and then we’ll see after that.”

Beginning in 2020, the Raiders’ new stadium will also host the Las Vegas Bowl, which will become one of the top bowls in the Pac-12 lineup. It has been a lower-tier bowl featuring the Pac-12 vs. the Mountain West. Starting in 2020, it will feature the No. 2 or 3 Pac-12 team against the Big Ten or SEC. It’s the first time the Pac-12 has had a bowl partnership with the SEC.

Also on Wednesday, the Pac-12 announced the addition of the new Los Angeles Bowl to its postseason lineup for the 2020-25 seasons. The bowl, which debuts in 2020, will be played at LA Stadium at Hollywood Park, which is currently under construction as the new home of the NFL’s Chargers and Rams.

The Los Angeles Bowl will feature the Pac-12 versus a team from the Mountain West.

Officiating review

An independent review of Pac-12 football officiating by Sibson Consulting found that the conference’s officiating program is “fundamentally sound and predominantly consistent with industry best practice.” However, Scott announced a set of recommendations to improve the program came out of the review.

The recommendations include:

  • The Pac-12 head of officiating will report directly to Scott instead of the football administrator.
  • Adoption of a new replay manual “codifying processes and procedures.”
  • Enhancement of training for officials and more consistency in grading and training from supervisors.
  • New communications protocol with “more transparency and public comment around significant calls or errors that either impact player safety or the result of the game.”

The officiating review, benchmarked against the NFL and the other Power 5 conferences, was overseen by a sub-committee that included Colorado athletic director Rick George.

“They identified several very important areas that could be and need to be strengthened further,” Scott said. “We are moving forward to implement all of Sibson’s recommendations.”

Media future

Scott also addressed the ongoing issue of the media landscape and the Pac-12’s place among its peers.

The Pac-12 ranks near the bottom of the Power 5 conferences in terms of per-school distributions. For the fiscal year of 2018, the Pac-12 distributed $29.5 million to each school – about the same as the ACC, but significantly behind the Big Ten ($54 million), SEC ($43.7 million) and Big 12 ($34.7 million).

Scott acknowledged that part of the gap stems from a lack of relative success in football and men’s basketball. However, he said some of the gap is attributed to timing, in that the Pac-12 signed its media deals in 2012 while other conferences have done so in more recent years. The Pac-12’s media rights deals expire in 2024.

“Come 2024, you’ll see the league tables in revenue … shift again, and you’re going to see the Pac-12 skyrocket up,” he said. “I can’t tell you right now exactly where we’ll land, but I think it’ll be impressive.”

The Pac-12 owns and controls its media rights and believes that will pay off down the road.

“We continue to feel very good about how we’re positioned for the future,” Scott said. “We’ve got strategic patience and we’re going to be able to take advantage of these positive media trends, new players in the marketplace and the increasing value that we seen in our rights.”

Through The Raine Group, the Pac-12 has been exploring potential media partnerships, as well.

“We’ve been delighted with the great interest that’s been generated,” Scott said. “We may or may not ultimately do something before 2024, but we’ve got the opportunity to be able to consider these things because of our ownership and control.”

Notable

This year’s championship game will be broadcast on ABC-TV for the first time. The previous eight title games have rotated between Fox and ESPN. … Fox and ESPN will broadcast a combined 44 Pac-12 football games this year, while the Pac-12 Networks will air 35 games. … Scott said the Pac-12 has no plans to move away from its model of nine conference games. Several other conferences have eight. The Pac-12 is becoming more flexible, however, in allowing late-season non-conference games, as opposed to front-loading the schedule with those games.